Shopping secondhand at a consignment shop is such a fantastic way to find unbelievable deals that I’m always shocked to hear people admit they’re too scared or nervous to actually do it. Shoes and clothing are nice, but trust me: Pre-owned designer handbags are where it’s at. If you’re wondering where to start, you have two main routes: consignment shops (online or brick and mortar) and, of course, eBay. The biggest pro of consignment shops is that many work hard to authenticate pieces that come through the doors, while the user-to-user setup of eBay makes that a little trickier. While fakes are floating around, there are also all kinds of fantastic legitimate bags that you’re too scared to find (sorry for the tough love).
To get you going, I consulted Jaclyn Shanfeld from online consignment site Shop-Hers, who started the business after getting burned herself. “I’d had a handful of horrific incidents where I received fake merchandise. Some were glaringly obvious, but others weren’t and I was fooled before being called out by a friend.” When shopping for a pre-owned bag, keep an eye out for anything that feels cheap or rushed. “All leather should be buttery and rich and everything is executed perfectly. Hardware shouldn’t rust into leather, no glue will be visible, and stitching is taken very seriously. They’ll be lined up and not sloppy-looking.”
Before you start browsing, arm yourself with brand specifics to look for.
Louis Vuitton bags
—They should have a mustard yellow stitching around the handles, not bright yellow or any other color.
—Speedy style bags should have five stitches that stitch evenly across the handle.
—The leather handles will be sealed in a burgundy red trim, which will wear and fade with age and as it’s used. Fakes will have a bright red trim that doesn’t change color.
—Bags produced before the ’80s don’t have a date code, but afterward LV started making them with a three-digit number. The first two numbers refer to the year it was made, and the last number is the month. In the ’90s, the system changed to what it still is today: two letters and a four-digit number. The letters refer to where the bag was made, and the first and third numbers tell the week it was made. The second and fourth stand for the year. A good way to tell if a bag has a fake date code is to see if the format doesn’t make sense, e.g., SD9091 would mean the 99th week of 2001, but obviously there aren’t 99 weeks in a year.
—The leather should be very soft and rich—so soft that you it slumps over when sat down. A surefire way to tell a fake is if it sits straight up.
—The backside of all zippers should say Lampo, which is the company Balenciaga outsources to to get zipper hardware. Really good fakes will say it, but it won’t look quite the same as the real company’s logo.
—The attached mirror should be heavy-duty, without any bend or flexibility to it.
—The string that weaves through the handles shouldn’t be finished or overly polished. It should look almost like a shoelace.
—The metal pieces that connect the straps to the bag should be oval, not square or round. This is one of the quickest ways to tell if a bag is a fake.
—There’s a serial-number tag attached on the inside that has black stitching at the top of it. It’ll be black stitching, no matter the color of the bag.
—After the mid-’80s, all Chanel bags will have a serial number attached to the interior. Good fakes might have one, but they’re often easier to peel off than the real thing.
—If a bag has mismatched hardware, it’ll be a very intentional design feature (and isn’t a common thing for Chanel, reserved mostly for limited editions). The majority of the time authentic bags will have the same hardware, gold or silver, throughout the interior thing, including the interior logo stamp.
—When it comes to those famous double Cs, the real ones will have the top portion of the right C overlapping the top portion of the left C. The bottom portion of the left C overlaps the bottom portion of the right C. On fakes, the overlap is rarely perfect and sometimes not even attempted (looking instead like one fused double letter).
—Faux authenticity cards will have a holographic or multicolor edge around them, whereas real ones will be solid.
—The popular canvas monogram fabric should have a slight sheen you can see when you hold the bag at an angle.
—Look inside: The interior serial number should have an R with a circle around it and Gucci stamped on it. The U should be more bold on the left side than the right.
—The serial number should be on the backside of the interior label and consist of two lines of hand-stamped numbers. They’ll be thin and lightly pressed, not wide and scattered.
—On canvas monogram pieces, the leather trim will always be pebbled napa leather, not microsuede.
—The logo heat stamp on the exterior should be spaced and accented exactly as you see it everywhere else.
—The interior label should have a heat stamp that says Céline and Made in Italy, no matter the size of the bag.
—Serial numbers have the pattern of one letter, two letters, and four numbers. Any starting with an S as the first letter and GA as the second two are often fakes, so be extra careful.
—There is a small number on the inside of each zipper, used by the brand to tell the size of the zipper when the bag’s in production.
—A bag with a smooth calfskin exterior will have matching pockets inside. Pebbled leather bags will have a microsuede interior.